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Release Date: 03/08/2001
Contact Information: Alice Kaufman, EPA Community Affairs Office, (617) 918-1064 Cristine A. Romano, DOJ, (202) 616-0903

BOSTON - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced that it will pay approximately 60 percent of the $6.5 million spent on the cleanup so far at the West Site/Hows Corner Superfund Site in Plymouth, Maine.

A settlement filed in court yesterday calls for the remaining 40 percent of the cleanup costs to be paid by five other federal agencies and 130 companies and individuals who have already agreed to the settlement. The five federal agencies will together pay approximately $257,000 for the cleanup.

The Consent Decree was filed in U.S. Federal District Court in Bangor, Maine and is subject to a 30-day public comment period.

This agreement was reached after numerous meetings and hundreds of telephone conversations with individuals and business owners. About 70 other parties may be released from paying after EPA's review of their claims of financial inability to pay.

"Although it's not perfect, this agreement represents a good faith effort by EPA to fund as much of this cleanup as possible," said Ira Leighton, EPA New England's acting regional administrator. "In the years ahead, EPA and the state of Maine will continue to pursue opportunities to reduce the financial burden Mainers will have to pay towards this undertaking."

The Maine state legislature has filed a funding bill that would provide additional financial relief to individuals and small business.

The cleanup is taking place at a former 17-acre waste oil storage and transfer facility, used from 1965 to 1980, affiliated with the Portland/Bangor Waste Oil Company. Waste oil, delivered by the company's tank trucks, was stored on site in 1,000- to 20,000-gallon storage tanks. The company collected, transported, and deposited unknown quantities of waste oil from military bases, auto dealerships, municipalities, local garages, bulk transportation companies, industries, and utility companies.

The lighter oil was eventually sold for fuel and the heavier oils for dust control on dirt roads. In 1980, the waste oil company ceased operations, cut up the tanks on site and sold them to a scrap metal dealer.

An EPA site investigation revealed that groundwater in private drinking water supply wells near the site and in monitoring wells on the site were contaminated with volatile organic compounds (VOCs), including tetrachloroethene, trichloroethene, and dichloroethene. Drinking water contaminated with these chemicals could pose a health threat. EPA has since installed a new water supply system to serve 36 residences whose drinking water was found to be contaminated.

Soils on the site were found to be heavily contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and volatile organic compounds. To date, EPA has removed 850 tons of contaminated soils.